How to Lose Weight

Summer is almost here, so it’s that time of year where many people start to seriously focus on their figure.  During winter we might have been focused on just trying to stay warm, hiding underneath layers of protection, and not stepping outside as often.  Springtime is a time of renewal; fresh starts are so motivating and often prompt some much needed Spring cleaning.  I recently dropped a lot of weight, so I wanted to share my secrets.

Does it Still Fit

The first secret is that I use a lot of metaphors.  Not for losing weight.  I haven’t done the research, but I am pretty sure there is no correlation between heavy metaphor use and weight loss.  Losing weight is the metaphor.  I am not here to teach you how to “get it right and keep it tight”.  Although this post is not about how to shrink our waistlines, I would like to share about a very different weight loss journey.

It’s usually not the scale that signals to me that I have excess weigh to lose.  There are plenty of signals, the ones that get ignored and the ones that refuse to be.  Once my clothes won’t fit anymore, I can no longer remain oblivious.  I understand basic physiology.  I understand that my actions have consequences, so intellectually I know that being neglectful of my workout routine, undisciplined with my eating choices, and making overall poor healthy lifestyle choices, will only result in an increase of both unwanted weight and tears.  Unfortunately, it is not until I am forced to rely too heavily on stretchy pants that I take action.  A few years ago, I decided that I would not buy the next size up, and that I wanted the activity and flexibility that comes with dropping pounds.  I didn’t just want to look better, I wanted to feel better.

Around this same time, I was working two or more jobs, seven days a week, while going to school.  My entire life became either working or studying.  I didn’t have time, money, or energy to do anything else.  My relationships with friends and family were affected the most.  During a rare Facebook cameo, I noticed that both my friends and family were leaving comments about how they missed me.  Even my two roommates, the very people I lived with, would tell me they missed seeing me.  It was confounding: how is it that EVERYONE in my life is missing me?  Who am I spending time with?  What am I doing with my life?  I felt heavy.  My life begin to feel too tight.  It didn’t fit me anymore.  I was tired of the worn and faded things I kept wearing over and over again.  It wasn’t me anymore.  I realized I needed to change.

Check the Scale

One of the scariest parts about deciding to lose weight is stepping on a scale.  Sometimes it’s a confirmation of what we already suspected, but sometimes it’s a wake up call.  2010 was the first year that I stepped on a scale in a really long time.  I stepped off in tears.  I was well over 200 pounds.  How did I get so far off track!?!  It was a wake up call to make better choices.  I started doing more physical activity and eating better.  I cannot say that I remained consistent or disciplined.  I face many derailers, especially self sabotage.  I make mistakes, I learn as I go, and when I know better, I try to do better.  It parallels my personal quest to follow my dreams.  There aren’t the same scales to step on, but there are ways to see if I am out of balance.  I was making strides in my personal life: I lost weight and had more energy; I earned my associate’s degree and was ready to transfer to a four year university; I got to dance almost everyday of the week; I fell in love.  Yet, even with all these strides, I still felt an unrest because I was too far away from my dreams.  I didn’t have a simple solution for losing the heavy weight that pressed on my chest, depressing me and making it hard to breathe.  I couldn’t just become more active.  Joining a boot camp and eating more kale weren’t going to help me become the creative artist I had longed of becoming.

At first, I decided that I would just have to work less to devote more time to my craft, but I quickly discovered that it opened me up to more financial instability.  If I worked any less, I couldn’t pay my rent or bills or eat or buy books.  I balanced periods where I would lose copious amounts of sleep trying to do it all: work, be social, and create.  The only way I could ever save money was by depriving myself of essential things.  The first thing I skimped on was always food, either I didn’t buy much or I bought really cheap stuff that wasn’t good for me.  Then bills always got priority over luxuries like replacing worn out shoes and clothing, repairing something, or going to the doctor or dentist.  Needing new shoes is the worst.  I would wear my shoes until they literally fell apart, and then I would wear them a little bit longer after that.  One pair of cross trainers, that doubled as my work shoes, looked as though they were holding conversations, the soles were so worn that they would flap up and down, exposing my socks, as I walked.  At my lowest, and most shamefully broke, I was desperate enough to wear black swim shoes to work (we must wear non-slip shoes to work, and you can’t get any more non-slip than swim shoes).  I worked too hard, for too long, to be living so destitute.  If working more and sleeping less wasn’t the answer, and working less and creating more wasn’t sustainable, then what was the solution?  It took me several years on the hamster wheel, in a crazy perpetual cycle between what I thought were my only options, before I realized how to get out of it.  I needed to lose more weight!  I needed to scale back!

Consume Less, Give Up Sweets

Not every lesson must be learned the hard way, but I will say those are the lessons that stick with me the most and the ones I appreciate more deeply.  My “aha! moment”, when I realized what it was really going to take to “lose the weight”, came at a painful price but I value it highly.  No matter how much I worked to increase my earnings, it seemed the bills would rise to meet them.  I was barely getting by and constantly juggling late fees.  I had what I realized was a cash flow issue.  I would work to earn enough money to pay my bills, but it wouldn’t always be available when I needed it.  The first of the month was notorious for leaving me bankrupt.  If the 1st came too far away from a pay day, then I would be forced to pay unanticipated late fees, which caused further strain on my ability to pay off the next set of bills on time.  I was stuck, in a classic hamster wheel scenario, working really hard, yet getting no where.  I could never get ahead, even though I saved money, because my savings would often get spent covering the discrepancy.

This was the part of my weight loss story were I allowed myself to be oblivious to how heavy I was becoming.  I remained in a rather Sisyphean cycle for far too long, so I am now grateful for the catalyst which made it impossible for me to ignore my unhealthy weight gain.  My symbolic squeeze into yoga pants came in the form of an eviction notice.  I had lived in the same apartment for over 3 years.  I was so unhappy there.  I could never get work done there, and it was infested with tiny roaches, despite regularly scheduled pest control visits.  They were not your average roaches; they must have been teenage mutant ninja roaches.  They lived without fear.  They would not wait until the kitchen was dark and unoccupied, they would just come straight for our plates as we sat at the dinner table.  They enjoyed lovely lamp lit strolls through the microwave while it radiated food (which I consequently trashed, first the food and eventually the microwave).  They got into EVERYTHING!  I stopped being able to enjoy any of my nice things.

Not only did I live in a roach motel, but the walls were so paper thin, that not only could you clearly hear every word of every conversation of every person passing by or in the adjacent apartments, but you could also smell every other meal being prepared.  On top of everything else, the washers and dryers were constantly breaking down and stealing your quarters, and even if the appliances were robbing us, ladies had to worry about some perv who stole underwear and bathing suits out of unsupervised dryers.

Home was not at all a sweet home.  However, I paid the largest percentage of my income to maintain that unsweetened roof over my head.  So imagine my absolute disgust when, after explaining how unexpected financial burden left me unable to pay all of my rent until Friday, which had been 4 days away, I was told that if I didn’t pay the remaining balance by midnight that night, that I would be issued an eviction notice the next day and that my roommate and I would be forced to vacate by Friday.  I was livid!  I felt certain that the apartment management was using manipulative, unlawful scare tactics.  We were not months behind on our rent, and in fact, my roommate had paid her portion on time, but a partial rent payment was still enough for them to feel an eviction notice was warranted.  I explained my situation to someone in the office and my roommate loaned me money from her parents so that we wouldn’t have any stains on our rental history.  The whole situation left a bad taste in my mouth, and I decided that when our lease was up, I would not renew it.

When I thought about where I would live next, I didn’t have a clue.  What was most important to me was to get rid of the heavy emotional and financial burden the apartment had become.  Something clicked.  I realized that there was only so much I could work and only so many expenses I could cut out.  If I could save on the high cost of rent however, then that would give me a chance to catch up.  It was the solution to my cash flow issues.  As it got closer and closer to the move out date, I decided that I wouldn’t look for another place to stay.  It seems drastic, but when you have limited resources, and you have been deferring your dreams for so long, drastic measures become appropriate.  Facing eviction made me take a serious look at my conviction.  If money was the main thing stopping me from pursuing my dreams, then I would do whatever was necessary to eliminate it as the problem.

Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows that success depends on burning more calories than you consume.  The simplest plan is to create a calorie deficit by becoming more active and consuming less.  That is the big secret to my weight loss; I became more active and consumed less.  I write everyday, I seek acting and dancing opportunities, I constantly work with children and learn more about how best to teach them.  I also realized I can live comfortably with a lot less stuff, and I stopped consuming the empty calories.  Eliminating sweets, or expensive creature comforts, had the same effect of drastically reducing my calorie and fat intake.  I lost weight right away.  Now, I feel so much lighter, and I have more energy.  I can now work less if I need to, without the debilitating fear of being homeless.  I am already homeless, and as it turns out, it is not the worst thing in the world.  Discovering that I can live with a lot less, has made it possible for me to take more risks.  The money that used to be dedicated to paying rent, is now being reinvested to fund my dreams.  I still don’t have a clear cut path or clear directions on how to get there, but at least now I have the capacity and energy to make the journey.

Don’t focus on the numbers, focus on consistency.  Do things fit better?

So, I probably look and sound like a crazy person to quite a few people.  When I have to explain that I do not have a permanent address, or a bachelor’s degree, or a high paying job, or a concrete plan, I can understand how people might interpret it negatively.  But when losing weight, there comes a point when your trainers tell you to stop focusing on the numbers on the scale.  The numbers may discourage you, however it’s important to remember that muscle weights more than fat and that a little fluctuation is normal.  The professionals know that it’s not all about the numbers; it’s about consistency.  They ask us instead to look at how we feel, how our clothes fit, how much energy we have, and at our overall health.  I am learning to pay less attention to the numbers (how I appear to other people, the titles and pieces of paper, or my net worth) and to devote more energy to becoming consistent (reading everyday, writing everyday, posting at least once every week, practicing dance at least five times a week, performing/studying improvisation and character study every week, telling more stories everyday).  If I can do the work and lose the excess weight, so can you.  So maybe I mislead you with the title, and perhaps you really wanted tips on shedding unwanted belly fat and bringing sexy back, that is the beautiful thing about any good metaphor, the lessons still apply.  The skills are transferable.  Whatever it is that you are seeking, whether physical or intangible, I hope that you discover beautiful results.


Perhaps you do not have to do something as drastic as giving up the stable roof over your head and other worldly possessions, and perhaps you do not have as many hardships standing in the way of you and your dreams.  If that is the case, I want you to really think about it…  

What is holding you back?  What is weighing you down?  How can you lose that weight and change into something that fits you better?

Advertisements

Not Enough Ours in a Day

Audition UPDATE:

I GOT A PART!!!  I was thrilled to receive an itty bitty, teeny tiny role in a super short play.  I am excited to be performing again.  This small role gives me a chance to warm up muscles that have been dormant for too long (performing for an audience of one doesn’t count).  The performance is on March 19th; I’ll give more details as the show approaches.  Thank you to everyone who sent me encouragement.  Stay tuned.

Snapshot 1 (6-26-2013 5-57 PM)


Our Hours

Happy Friday!  Another work week finished.  Unfortunately, a finished work week does not equal finished work.  Right now, I am all about wanting to finish things.  I want to have an idea, feed it and watch it grow; I want the idea to become a plan; I want the plan to come to fruition.  I want to START something and FINISH it.

I admitted in a recent post, that I don’t know what I am doing.  I am still figuring out how to get from point A to point B, and at times I feel like I don’t know where I am going.  I am also still figuring out how to do it all in the time allotted.  There is a finite amount of time in a day, but we all get the same amount.  There is a finite amount of time I have on this earth, but I cannot know how much time is allotted to me.  I have witnessed time be unkind to several people very close to me, so even though I am young, I carry an intense sense of urgency.  I used to be convinced of my own impending finality.  I honestly never thought I would even live very long past 18.  Often the passage of time feels heavy like a physical weight I must carry around as a reminder not to get too comfortable.  That uncomfortable feeling keeps me from getting complacent, but it also means it’s hard for me to relax.  I never think what I am doing is enough.  I hate that I haven’t accomplished more of my goals.

I have this tiny problem when it comes to #GettingStuffDone: I take a really long time to do EVERYTHING!  Write.  Read.  Answer emails.  Even my natural walk is slow, which is a problem when I visit places like New York, because I can’t keep up.  That is largely how I feel now.  I feel like I cannot keep up.  I am not trying to keep up with anyone else, more so keep up with all the things I am seeking to accomplish in the time I have allotted.  There are so many possibilities, and I love exploring them.  As a creative person, who loves to learn, I thrive in learning environments and new opportunities.  But what that means is, a lot of times I end up pursuing various avenues, but not following one path to the end.  The reality for me is that all my interest are valuable to me, I just don’t know how to juggle them.  I suck at prioritizing one over another.  Everything seems equally important and whatever is most urgent is what demands my attention.  Perhaps that is the difficult side of being a creative artist.

So many of my hours must be dedicated to other tasks.  I have this thing called “bills to pay”, and if you’re like me, you even need to eat sometimes.  I must work to eat and pay bills, and the majority of my hours have been spent clocked in, fulfilling someone else’s mission statement.  Then there are filler task, aka busy work, aka administrative duties: laundry, cleaning house, grocery shopping, scheduling doctor visits, washing my hair, etc.  The hours can get spent up pretty quickly, and most of the time they don’t feel like my hours.  Even when my time is my own, I am still learning how best to utilize it.

Our days can get so busy.  But busy doing what?  What are we filling our days with?  How much of our time is ours?  How many of the hours in a day are ours?  Do you find enough of YOU in YOUr day? Finding the time that is ours, dedicated to learning new things, putting new work out, self promoting.  How do you spend your creative time?  Do you have a process?

Special thank you to readers:

Thank you for using some of the limited hours in your day to read my words.  I hope that they add and not take away from your time.  I look forward to sharing many more words with you.  Please leave a comment and let me know what are some things you struggle with.

-Bry


Let me know. I want to hear from you.

What fills your day?  Is it unbalanced between all work and no play?  Where do you find the time to write and post (or pursue whatever passion interests you)?  Do you have a day job now, or what sort of day job helped support your art during the early days?


While the Rest of the World Sleeps

Even In Our Sleep…

I am human.  This statement admits both fact and fault.  I am human, ergo, I make mistakes (Mistakes like using ergo in your blog?  I promise I am not pretentious; I just love words, and I never get to use that one enough).  It really frustrates me that I make so many mistakes.  For instance, last week I didn’t deliver on the Freestyle Friday post that I promised.  I starting writing it, midnight came and went, I missed my deadline, and felt defeated.  Today was Tuesday, but by the time this gets published, it will no longer be Tuesday, and I will have broken yet another goal that I set for myself.  I am feeling like a mistake making factory over here, producing a high quantity of long-lasting mistakes at a pretty consistent rate.  I remember this quote, although I don’t know who to attribute it to, it reads, “only in our sleep, do we make no mistakes”.  That was such a comforting sentiment to me at one time, but then I started making mistakes in my sleep.  Ever get a crick in your neck?  Oops, slept wrong.  Ever woke up late because you slept through your alarm?  Ah yes, over sleeping, it’s my least favorite common mistake; we basically start off our day already having made a huge mistake.  Missing the deadlines I set for myself, feels very much like over sleeping.  I am getting started already having made a huge mistake.  Even in our sleep, mistakes are inevitable.  Perhaps, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself then.  Whether I wake up late or not, I’ve still got the whole day ahead of me.

Sleeping Beauty

My mind is most active in the midnight hours, while most others are sleeping, and I have the world to myself.  Unfortunately, because I work so much, I find it necessary to stay awake to get stuff done.  I play a lot of catch up at night time.  I am constantly annexing the hours dedicated for rest and rejuvenation.  If beauty sleep were an actual thing you needed to maintain beauty, I would look like a troll.  By day, I am a barista slash child care phenom slash educator slash caped crusader slash student, but when the night has come, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light you see… oops, wait those are song lyrics!  (Slip ups like that happen, when you get little to no sleep)… at night I create.  I have not figured out a way to make writing a part of my normal working day.  That is my new mission: to get a good night’s rest and also create things.  I want sleeping and beauty.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

That being said, it is taking me entirely too long to write and edit this post.  At this point, if I go to sleep right now, I might be able to get a whole 45 minutes of sleep before it’s time to go to work.  I know I promised you an update, but I want that cat nap.  This is not the post I started out writing, but this is the one I was able to finish.  I make mistakes; I am human remember.  “To err is human, to forgive is divine”.  I hope you can forgive me for sleeping on the job.


Consider this an I.O.U.  I still owe you a proper update.  I will not keep you waiting for long.  In the meantime, please share with me how you manage it all?  Is writing your day job?  Do you juggle school, work, and family?  Are you like me and get no beauty rest?

Coming to the Stage- Part 2

I do love a good metaphor.  In Part 1, I wrote about stages: stepping to them, being on them, going through them, sharing them… you get the point.  However, I am happy to report, that it is not just a metaphor; I really am coming to the stage again.

Two days ago, I went to an open audition.  I haven’t auditioned in a ridiculously long time.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been performing.  I have been dancing and even singing on stage quite a bit up until recently, but for whatever reason, either I haven’t had to audition (#winning #MyReputationPrecedesMe), or I haven’t been taking enough risks.  Unfortunately, we know which one was more commonly the case.  The underlying problem has been that I haven’t had the capacity to do more.  Now that I have made some schedule changes and sacrifices (more on that next Tuesday), I have the opportunity to do more with all the creative energy that I have been bottling up.  So imagine my giddiness, while reading the playbill for a theatre company that I admire, and noticing that they were holding auditions only 3 days away!  My heart sank as I realized that I had a work conflict.  It only took one text message, inside one minute, to switch my schedule around (that has never happened before!!!  Switching schedules usually requires a high level of begging, bribery, and/or blackmail akin to those in public office, but miracles do happen everyday!).  I was able to audition!

After emailing my headshot and a rather unimpressive resume of my meager body of work, (darn The Struggle for being so real!!!  If all you do is work, then of course your extracurriculars suffer) I received my audition time.  It was really happening!  Then, I had a brief flashback, remembering how awkward I was in high school during auditions: I was the dweeb in the bathroom reciting lines over and over again, and even practicing tongue twisters (“Red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow letter” “the seething sea ceaseth, and thus the seething sea sufficeth us”).  I did this nervously up until the very last minute.  When my name was called, all my preparation immediately went out the window; I became someone else, and unfortunately not the characters I was trying out for, but the mild mannered Clark Kent version of myself, hiding my super powers.  Auditions often begin with the director asking a few questions, they’re getting to know you and/or trying to put you at ease.  I was wound so tight, that no amount of preamble could have put me at ease.  This level of performance anxiety derailed most every audition.

If you think I am over exaggerating how badly I bombed at auditions, allow me to introduce exhibit A: I tried out unsuccessfully for my high school’s theatre company two years in a row.  I continued to take theater classes, in both technical theater and performance, however procuring a place in the company always alluded me.  The only reason, I think I made the company after trying out my junior year, is because my theater teacher overheard me telling another classmate, that if I didn’t make it in this year, I’d be done with the theater program.  To this day, I am not sure whether I made it in based on the merit of my audition, my record of outstanding work in class, or out of pity.  Either way, I was elated to finally be “in”.

So this is what I recalled first, as I read my confirmed audition time.  I quickly regrouped by flashbacking  over all the time that has passed since high school and all the times I successfully performed, feeling at home on stage and connecting strongly with the audience.  I’ve come a mighty long way since my lame days of high school, but it left some residual phantom pains of lameness.  I foolishly wondered, “I don’t have it anymore, but can it grow back!?!”  I made a choice, in that moment, to no longer entertain those thoughts, and chose instead to be excited for the opportunity.  The take away from all the flashbacking is that being prepared, remaining calm, and confident in my abilities is key.  Maybe I don’t have much experience with auditioning since high school, but I have a lot more performance experience since then.  I told myself, “I got this!”  Also, I wore my confidence-boosting secret weapon… red lipstick.

I arrived surprisingly early, because I found the place without any trouble.  There were signs on the door outside that told me I was in the right place.  (For all my fellow metaphor lovers, I shamelessly point out the last sentence.)  I took a seat and a deep breath.  “You got this!  Just have fun!” I assured myself.  I could hear laughter coming from the audition in progress.  Finally, the door opened, the last auditionee stepped out, and then my mispronounced name was called (the unique name struggle).  I remained myself, no Clark Kenting.  Inside were the director and two company members.  The black and white image I provided for my headshot looked up at me, smiling reassuringly, from the director’s table as I grabbed the script we would be reading from.  I got a brief description, from the director, about the short play and the characters within it.  The two other company members were my scene partners.  Talented and funny, they didn’t just read the lines off the page.  They acted out the scene with enthusiasm, and instead of being intimidated, I simply reveled at our play.  I got to “read” for different parts, and then it was over.  It felt like an enjoyable roller coaster ride: the anxious butterflies at the beginning, the thrilling euphoria of rising and falling, the hilarious yet awkward reactions to the unexpected, the joy of feeling suspended in time, and finally the abrupt disbelief that comes with the unavoidable return to central standard that signals the end of the ride.  “What?!  It’s over already!?!  Can I go again?!”  I tried out; I made mistakes; I kept going; I got a few laughs.  I just wanted to get right back in line and ride again.

In the end, the audition did have a bit of awkwardness (though extremely watered down; it was more of an eua de toilette hint of high school lameness).  I wouldn’t say I #nailit, but I can honestly say I had fun.

I find out later today whether I’m “in” or not.  Whatever the outcome, I am going to keep coming to the stage.

Coming to the Stage- Part 1

I readily admit that I don’t know what I am doing.  I am an amateur at mostly everything, especially life.  But I love to learn, and I keep stepping to the stage.

ACT I

It started out small.  I remember being no more than five fingers old, packed tightly in a car full of my loved ones, grown-ups in the front seat, little cousins perched precariously on the laps of big cousins in the back.  We were on our way to the Alamo.  I don’t remember much about the Alamo, despite that being it’s thing… REMEMBER THE ALAMO, but I do remember the road trip.  The time spent in the car, the time wasted out of the car because of the multiple unscheduled stops my urgent and unpredictable restroom request caused (my young bladder was not cut out for the open road), the game of Catch-22 (long before I understood what a Catch-22 was) I played with my uncle where I tried to get candy (if I asked for skittles, he mischievously claimed to only have “ski-diddles” and when I asked for “ski-diddles” he confusingly only had Skittles).  This road trip to the Alamo contains my first memory of trying on other people’s lives: observing actions, speech, mannerisms, and then reflecting them back.  It is the prequel story to the saga of my passion for acting.

The first scene, takes place in front of a mirror, hanging on the wall of the motel room my extended family shares together.  I notice my Uncle “Ski-diddle” grooming in the mirror.  I have been captivated by him ever since our game of “chase the rainbow”; he is a giant and kind and playful, and without trying he nurtures my silly side.  Eventually, observing isn’t enough, so I stand next to him in the mirror, just barely tall enough to see over the dresser, and mimic his every move.  We wordlessly continue our little drama:  he brushes his hair… I brush my hair; he adjusts his clothes… I adjust my clothes; he shaves his facial hair… I shave my non-existent facial hair.  My very first improv scene.  My very first stage.

As a young girl, I wanted to be many things when I grew up, but I always included actress.  Growing up in church offered unique opportunities to “perform” before an “audience”.  One story, which I shall share in another post, and which my big cousins have never let me forget, involves having to be tactfully removed from the pulpit and separated from my new best friend, the microphone.  I was way too comfortable on stage.

Another moment, I can never live down, involves being obsessed with the movie “Coming to America”.  I loved the scene where the Prince of Zamunda meets potential wifeys.  My favorite thing to do was reenact one part in particular: I hold an imaginary lighter beneath my palm as the flames dance along my unflinching flesh, and quote in a most serious and monotone voice, “I was Joan of Arc in my former life”.  Oh yes!  Waaaaay too comfortable on stage.

INTERMISSION

Fast forward in my timeline past my awkward, insecure pre-teen adolescence, past loss and grief, and pause for a moment at my high school self.  I took acting very seriously.  I believed I was good at it, and I certainly loved telling stories and playing roles on stage.  But there’s is a but.  Having to audition, be judged, and compete for roles made me feel insecure.  I was no good at auditioning, and in fact, I had to tryout over again for three years before I ever made it into my high school’s theater company.  My senior year, I was finally able to perform in front of an audience, and yet I began to shrink on stage.

Shakespeare wrote that all the world is a stage.  The bard’s metaphor definitely applied in my case.  I shrank from a lot of stages in my life.  I continued to hold tightly to the desire to share stories and tell them truthfully, but I was less bold, it was like a birthday wish that you never speak aloud because you are superstitious it won’t come true.  I was afraid it would never come true.  I was conditioned into believing that it was not a sensible dream at my age: “you should study computers”, “do you have a backup plan”, “hardly anyone makes a living like that”.  Advice meant to helpfully shield me from the pain of failure, only redirected my energy at my short comings, and I acted out (or rather opted out) of fear of failure itself.  I traded in my dreams of writing and acting for more practical ones.  I didn’t major in theater or writing, and then later I became a slave to The Struggle (a perpetual cycle of working to earn money to pay bills and rent… only to work more to pay even more bills… saving little yet owing a lot, never getting much farther ahead); I reached a stage in my life where it was nothing but work or study: I neglected my personal needs and relationships and ignored my dreams completely.  But the thing about a calling is, it won’t shut up.  The small voice, no matter how drowned out by distractions or distorted by self-doubt, it remained nagging me during the quiet hours or in my sleep.

ACT II

Now fast forward to the part of the story where, I finally decide to listen and trust the small voice, to be more intentional, to take more positive risks, to once again step to the stage and follow my dreams, and to even have the nerve to blog about it.

I’ve shared my intentions, my struggles, and my hopes, but I realized I have been leaving you out of the process.  Up until now, I have only been sharing my dramatic revelations, the stories that, despite being delayed by tedious perfectionism and harsh self-critique, would not be silent and insisted on being told.  I haven’t connected with others who can probably relate to my struggles, people still learning and unlearning similar lessons.  I have been sending postcards after the fact, as opposed to keeping you informed the entire time.  I haven’t let you in on the everyday moves I make toward that elusive horizon where my dreams live.  I haven’t let you follow along as I co-create my new life.  I left you out of the process.

Sharing in this manner, only when I have profound revelations, does a disservice to both storyteller and reader.  It is giving you an obstructed view of the stage.  And how can we connect more deeply under such conditions?

Henceforth, my goal is to post at least once a week.  Publishing a new post every Tuesday.

I don’t have this whole, “what to do, now that you’ve started a blog” thing figured out, but I did learn that it is important to schedule post instead of posting on a whim.  I have a schedule now!  And now that I have shared the schedule, I have more accountability to anyone reading this.  See how I am learning new things!?!?  (Writer pats herself on the back, as she smiles way too enthusiastically at the fact that she created a schedule).  Have I told you how happy it makes me to share my work with you?!  Thank you so much for reading!

I am inviting you back on that field trip I promised a couple posts ago.  I want to share a more complete picture of the journey I am on.  I happily share this stage with you.

The Discovery of Matter

Hello again!

I apologize for my prolonged absence; I was busy wrestling with some heavy scientific discoveries.  I am happy to report that I am back because I have made a phenomenal breakthrough.

(Scientific discoveries?  Breakthroughs?  But I thought this was a blog about following your dreams, becoming professional, being a writer, or lung capacity of whatever.)  

Believe me, I thought so too.  But a funny thing happened once I decided to actively pursue my dreams.  I’ll explain that a little later, but first let me get back to my scientific findings.

I discovered matter.

Now don’t go fact checking on Google or anything, just trust me.  If you’ve read any of my previous post then you know that I like metaphors and field trips, so willingly suspend your disbelief for just a moment and go with me on this.

I discovered matter.  Mind.  Blown.  Right?  I know.  My mind is just so incredibly amazing.  I discovered what all human life is made of.  My mind is also pretty powerful; it can manipulate matter, defying the laws of the universe.  For instance, I can disappear.  Now you see me… now you don’t.  You want proof?!?!  Here, I’ll show you.  Take for instance my long hiatus from this blog I just recently started.  Have you seen me?  No, because I disappeared.  More proof!?!  Okay, I am very skilled at disappearing; I vanished from dance companies, workout groups, family functions, relationships, and a lot of other things I used to really enjoy doing.  I have an uncanny ability to “catch ghost”.

Remember my mind is extraordinary… it can fabricate things.  More seriously, it fixates on things.  To be completely vulnerable, it fabricates and fixates on my flaws, mistakes, and misfortunes.  You see, I battle depression.  This is not an easy subject for me to put out there, but it has become imperative that I share.

Why even share deeply personal experiences?   This wasn’t my idea at first.  I thought that this blog was going to be all “what challenge am I going to conquer this week?”, but what I quickly discovered was that my quest to follow my passions only lead me deeper inside myself.  My journey lead me directly to what has been blocking me from pursuing that which I love.  Before I can go off completing challenges, becoming professional, earning titles, and saving the world… I have to first be honest with myself.  I am sharing these hard truths about myself and the way my mind works, because I am certain that I am not alone.  I am sharing this because there is someone else out there convincing yourself that you are not enough; fighting to stay barely alive, not living the life you want, feeling as though, at any minute, everything could fall apart, and that you might lose control.  I am sharing this because even as a deeply spiritual person, I battle depression.  I am sharing this because church folks unconsciously and consciously perpetuate myths that say having mental/emotional struggles mean that you are weak or faithless.  I am sharing this to erase the stigma.  I am sharing this because of Robin Williams.  Because it really hit me extremely hard, that someone so seemingly successful doing what he loved and was good at, who had battled depression for so long, could end his life.  I am sharing this because I have questioned whether or not I am supposed to be here.  Because I have wanted the pain to stop so badly that I have contemplated letting it all go.  I am sharing this because I know that life is a precious gift, yours and mine.  I am sharing this because I discovered part of my purpose is to make connections.  It is what I seek to do with my stories, and metaphors, and in teaching.  I want to help us realize how this is connected to that, how something you already know is related to something you don’t, how we are all connected, and that we all matter.  Our stories matter.  Our lives matter.

Speaking of matter, let me share my discovery:

Discovering Matter

“We’re made of the same stuff as the moon and the stars. The ocean’s salt waters just like my tears are”  -India Aire, God is Real

Matter is one of those things we learned in elementary.  Solids, liquids, gas.  Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space.  We learned that every living creature, physical objects, oceans, mountains, and just about everything is composed of matter.  The elements that compose great celestial bodies are some of the same elements found in our human bodies.  We are made of the same things and yet each of us is so unique.   I believe we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and yet sometimes I don’t want to be here… like on the planet… like in existence.  Sometimes it is because the pain living inside is too great to measure.  Sometimes it is because I am tired of being who I am, and I feel as though I am a horrible waste of human life.  My negative thoughts can easily convince me that I am “The Worst”.  “Who would really miss me anyway; my family doesn’t even need me; everyone would be better off without me; all I do is mess up; I am not making a significant difference in the world; I can’t even take good care of myself, of course I can’t help other people; life is too hard; dreams don’t happen; love is a lie; there is so much pain; it’s all meaningless; I don’t matter”.  Even as a very spiritual person, I struggle with feeling like enough.  However, I have finally recognized what triggers my descent into despair.

I seek approval when I want to feel like I am enough.  And in order to feel like enough, I want to be good at everything and make no mistakes.  I want to be enough because then maybe I’ll matter, to myself and someone else.  Every time I have considered “going gently into that good night” it has been because I am convinced that I don’t matter.  Some people harshly judge those who hurts themselves, believing that it is selfish or cowardly.  Others are simply confused as to why someone would ever self-harm.   To family, friends, and colleagues who are grappling with why: it is most often a desperate act fueled by despair and the misguided notion that things will never change and that life doesn’t matter anyway.  If we think we don’t matter, then we believe that we aren’t really hurting anyone else when we hurt ourselves.

This is of course false.  Anyone (family, friends, co-workers, random people who only know us through our work/reputation) can be deeply wounded whenever one of us self-destructs.  We are all connected, and every human life matters.  Every life has impact on others.  Like water, even small drops create large ripples that intersect with others, influencing the trajectory of what it touches.  One of the reasons I am still breathing air is because, I could always think of at least one person I might be hurting by giving up on myself.  My sister and brother (who already lost our parents).  The children I care for and teach.  My best-good-peas-and-carrots friends.  The connection I had to them saved me from hurting myself irrevocably.  Connection is key in combating depression, and unfortunately, one of the first things depressed people do is separate ourselves, withdrawing from people and things that add value to our life, disappearing into a world of solitude and sorrow.

But you seem like such a happy person; how can a person with such infectious joy be depressed?   Depression does not define me.  Depression does not steal all my days, nor does it control all my thoughts, it does however mean that the way in which I cope with life’s trials is different than those who do not deal with depression.  People who know me relatively well might be shocked to discover I am living with this heavy burden.  For the most part, in public, I seem like a pretty cheery, energetic, encouraging, glass half full, sunshine & rainbows type of person.  When you see me happy, it is because I have fought hell to be in that state.  It is like visiting Disney World, or seeing an especially outstanding show… most people don’t realize all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make it possible.  I do a lot of work behind the scenes so that it is possible to share my best self.  I strive to live in the moment, limit my impulse to complain, and practice gratitude for what I do have.  I am also a master at compartmentalizing.  My life can be falling apart in one area, but I make an extra effort to be joyful in the other areas.  My work with children, for instance, is my heart’s joy (my ministry).  I am in my natural element, so I am able to be my best self.  Many people believe children are cruel.  Children can be cruel, but those are kids that lack understanding.  Children that know and love you are surprisingly accepting and forgiving.  Even still, when I convince myself that I have failed my kids, my pendulum of emotion shifts to the opposite end, and I am thrust into despair.  It takes strong self-awareness, spiritual guidance, and conscious daily effort, but it is possible to live a full life.   And guess what!?!  I discovered that it is possible to do more than simply endure it.  We can actually enjoy our years on this spinning pile of matter.

One does not simply create matter

I matter simply because I am.  We do not have to DO anything to matter.  I have mass and take up space.  I am made of matter therefore I matter.  It’s helpful to others that I am a kind, generous person, with a sense of humor, and can make a mean sandwich, but that is not what makes me matter.  If all these things were stripped away, I am still significant, simply because I was created.  Ask a woman who has miscarried, her unborn child did not DO anything except be created, and yet the baby’s existence matters.  Being here, that is miraculous.  Being formed into matter means we already matter.  Simply because we were created.  And I believe that there is a reason we are here.  There is a reason we were created.  “Enough” came with the package… factory standard.  We. Are. Already. Enough.  We cannot earn our worthiness, and we cannot lose our worthiness.  Thank God for that!

As I type this out on my laptop, I am reminded of another metaphor, illustrating the importance of connection when battling depression.  Bear with me, it’s the last one (I think).  My laptop has a limited amount of battery life.  This means I can only work for so long before it completely shuts down, and I must reconnect the power cord to the outlet.  One day my computer shut down without warning.  I was extremely confused, because it appeared to be plugged in.  On my laptop, there is a light that indicates when power is being received.  When I checked the cords, I finally noticed that the light kept flashing on and off.  I realized that the connection was the problem.  It was faulty and had to be replaced, because it wasn’t doing its job properly.  It wasn’t connecting my computer to the power source.  Do you see the parallels?  My disconnect happens whenever I rely on faulty connections.  My mind is capable of creating the faulty connections.  “If I do this, this, and this, THEN I am worthy.  I must be this, this, and that first.  I can do this on my own.  Oh no, I have not done this, that, and the other yet, because I am not enough.  I don’t matter”.  If I am not connected to a power source, I can only go for so long before I can no longer function properly.  This connection not only keeps me running, it gives me energy to create more with what I am made of.  It gives me energy to connect to others and recharge them.

The truth is I have always been attached to the source, yet at times I couldn’t receive power.

I replaced the connection.

And discovered matter.

The Importance of Controlled Brything

If you’re reading this, you have inadvertently signed up for a field trip.  Let’s go!

At first all you hear is the sound of tires screeching, as you jolt into consciousness.  Your eyelids remain tightly shut, fighting against the overbearing sunlight flooding in through the passenger-side window.  It takes you several seconds to realize that the car has stopped, and that I am yelling at you to get out of the car.  “Run!” I admonish you, “we’ve got to get to the finish line!”  It’s all coming back to you now; I’ve signed us up on the Amazing Race!!!  You gather your barrings and join me in a sprint.  After a while, the chase leaves our lungs starved for oxygen and our feet begging to be amputated.  We carry on.  That’s how important it is to us that we reach our goal.  We have a single-minded determination to persist past pain and every obstacle.  Our brains focus on our most immediate need, oxygen.  In order to keep moving forward, we need a constant supply of fresh oxygen to every muscle in motion.  We control our breathing to keep us calm and to keep us moving forward.

Field trip over!  Oh, but you’re wondering about the finish line, aren’t you?  Just so you know, it was never about the finish line.  That whole trip was a ruse.  I was using you; I’m sorry.  It was all a metaphor.  Let me explain.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I am chasing after my dreams, and that I am finally recognizing the obstacles that have hindered my pursuit.  Chasing dreams sounds romantic, doesn’t it?  The imagery it stirs up, of a cops-n-robbers type caper however, is misleading.  It’s not as simple as running as fast as you can, and it is not as stable as finally catching your target and locking it away.  Following our dreams is a dogged pursuit of a target which masterfully escapes its confines each evening.  Chasing misrepresents what creative people actually do to become a professional.  Pursuing our dreams actually requires more measured steps; following our dreams is therefore a daily practice.  Constantly stepping towards our dreams sounds less romantic, but it gives us a far more accurate description of what to expect.

I started this blog as a challenge.  A wise and creative soul told me that it was time to share my passions with the world, and that perhaps the way to begin was by blogging.  Having a blog is not the finish line though (remember, it was never about the finish line).  It’s about learning all the skills and completing the work that move me toward the finish line.  It started with a challenge, so it naturally makes since to continue that practice.

Each week I will seek and complete an exercise, which I endearingly refer to as “Brything Exercises”, that allow me to grow as a creative artist, share my passions, and promote my work.  Each challenge is designed to move me forward in the direction of my dreams.


 

Remember that field trip, from the beginning of this post?  That’s not the only one you signed up for.  I am inviting you to tag along with me on all my adventures.  As you share in my experiences, you are welcome to share your own and/or suggest additional challenges I should do.  Let’s go!


-Bry